Blue Bay Villas Doradas resort is a very good place to spend a week. It is a smaller more boutique type resort than we normally go to, however this actually permitted us to have a more enjoyable time due to the higher level of service than we often get in bigger resorts.
Flight We flew Canjet, which generally was fine. The "snack" was just that and the seats do not allow for much wiggle room. We booked through Nolitours and expected to fly Air Transat, which has more room in the cabin. Fortunately, it was not a really long flight.
One of the benefits of a smaller resort and travelling off-season, is highly personal service. We were the only ones checking in at approx 10 PM on this Thursday evening. So we were seated in the lobby and the check-in package was provided and explained to us in a matter of minutes. We were given a chilled face cloth and drink while we completed what little paperwork there was and the gentleman checking us in asked us if we were hungry. I indicated I would like something and he immediately set about hurrying us over to the buffet before it closed at 10 PM. He arranged a table and told us to take our time and he would watch our luggage until we were done, then have us taken to our room. When we got to our room the porter explained how to use all the facilities, including the in-room safe. When he left I began to try to program the safe, with no luck and after about 5 minutes I decided to go to the Front Desk to see what was wrong. As I exited the room, he was coming back with a new Safe Key Card. He had seen something about the particular model of Safe in our room that made him think my card was wrong. He was correct, one try and I had it working. I was pretty impressed by the whole check-in process and the staff I dealt with on day one. My only negative comment was that we had asked our travel agent for a second floor room and we ended up in a ground floor room during a time when I estimate the resort was maybe at half capacity.
Room Frankly, the room was suitable, however unimpressive. It was certainly clean and did not have any smells, critters or major defects. As others have said there is not very much room for storing your "stuff". The closet had 15 hangers, 2 small shelves and 3 small draws built into it. The bathroom is really kind of tiny and the door opens into it which blocks the shower, so moving around in it could be a challenge. However, everything worked and there was reasonable water pressure and hot water. There is a desk, which I think is probably not a good "fit" for a resort and in one end is a cupboard which contains a Bar-fridge. A piece of furniture with additional storage space on the right side might be a better idea. The space and fridge are mis-matched, which often means moving the fridge slightly to open and close it. There is a further mis-match between the Fridge and purified water bottle, which results in the fridge door popping open and leaking out cool air and working too hard. It also fills with condensated water from the humidity in the air. Not a great thing for a resort that has cards in the room indicating a desire to be an environmentally friendly operation. The air conditioning seemed to work just fine and even though while we were there it was very warm and humid, the room was always comfortable within a reasonable period of time (the air conditioner does not run while you are out of the room if you remove your key card from the controller near the door). We had a room (3105) very near the pool. And we did not experience any significant noise issues at anytime during our week. In summary the room was not up to a Canadian 5 Star standard, however it was more than adequate as a place to call home during a week of holidays or even a couple of weeks for those who stay longer.
Our room was cleaned daily, although some aspects were hit and miss. Firstly I have to say that the room was kept very clean throughout our stay. No problem there. However on a couple occasions, face clothes were removed and not replaced or hand towels were removed and not replaced. Next day they would be back. Also we had evening turn-down service and beach towel replacement a couple evenings and not others. We also found it funny that our room lady took the empty water bottle and this did not trigger a replacement being brought. I went to the Front Desk and asked for more water and a very pleasant lady showed up at our door in less than 10 minutes with our replacement, so it was no big deal, just funny that the connection between being out of water and replacing it was not made.
Restaurants and Bars:
Meals Food is a very personal thing and we thought that the food at the buffet was great. The buffet was smaller (number of selections at any given time) than at some of the other resorts we have been at, however that reflects the smaller size of the resort. There were items that we selected that we probably would not go for again, but that was more because we found things we liked better. All in all, I would rate the food in the top 3 of any all inclusive resort that we have been to. The Omelet and Pasta station were my personal favourite. I was quite impressed that during our stay we saw most of the senior management team have numerous meals at the buffet. This is a great way to ensure a consistent level of quality. We went to the Jade Garden (Oriental Fusion) and El Pescador (Seafood). At the Jade Garden one entre did not quite hit the mark, while the other one was great. At the El Pescador we both had better than great meals and the staff were superb. We were treated like royalty, it was a 5 star experience.
In previous reviews I have seen negative comments about the birds that fly into the buffet (mostly in the morning) and steal food. Guess what, if the restaurant has a completely open side, birds will fly in. I watched all week and not once did I see any kind of droppings. I actually enjoyed the entertainment of watching the birds try to position themselves for any scraps that they could get. One tip don’t fill you plate and then leave it unattended while you get something else. Think of this as being at a week long picnic.
Beach We have been to the Dominican Republic 7 times, to 6 different resorts and all in all this is the best beach we have been to. It is reasonably deep from front to back and because of the Playa Dorada compound, if you like walking, you can walk for a couple miles. It is relatively flat and calm. There is a rock/coral structure that is about 25 feet wide mid-way across the beach in the water about 5 – 10 feet out, that hides in the surf to watch out for, but other than that it has a nice sand bottom. Yes it does have junk float up everyday, however that is not the resort’s fault and regrettable you will get that anywhere in the Caribbean. Mostly plastic bottles and bags that float in from off shore. As well as some plastic drink glasses that get blown off the beach into the water. There is a team who works everyday to clean the stuff that floats up onto the beach in the entire Playa Dorada compound. They do a pretty good job keeping the beach clean. It would be really great if tourists could be taught that a beach is not their ash tray and these thoughtless people would not leave cigarette butts in the sand. Once again I would like to remind travelers to take an insulated mug with a lid. Buy a decent one and your drink will stay cold longer, you won’t get sand in your drink and you will save on garbage in paradise. I once estimated that each traveler with a insulated mug saves about 70 plastic glasses per week. There was about a 16 thatched shade areas, which worked during our week, however when the resort is at full capacity it could be a challenge finding shade. And we read a report about a lack of loungers. While we were there you could see, by the shades of blue on the chairs that they recently got a lot more. I am guessing that they recently doubled the number of loungers on the beach. They also have a few "beach beds", you have to be up pretty early to get them during the day. We actually liked to go and watch the ocean at night and used them for that. Just up the beach from the resort (to the left when looking at the ocean), in front of the Gran Ventana is some really good snorkeling, right off the beach. It is a short walk just around the end of the point and you’re there.
There are two main pools. They are small and shallow, approx 3 feet. So in really hot weather, like we had, they get pretty warm. There are as many loungers as will reasonably fit around the pool and there are a decent number of umbrella’s.
In general the resort is well maintained and we found everything to be nearby when needed. The walk to the beach is pleasant and they have done a good job building a bridge over a wet lands area. I think it is terrific that they chose to protect this area from development.
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
Entertainment The house band was my personal favourite. The animation team put on a couple evenings of basic resort shows which were ok, they work hard. There was not much happening during the day, they did have some activities that I saw, however with about only 50% occupancy (my estimate) it was a challenge for them to get things going
Time Share and Souvenir Sales: The VIP Club Sales guys will tell you that they are not offering a time share, however they will try to entice you to listen to their offer. It is a multiple step process and can quickly consume a couple hours. If you are not interested, a pleasant no thank you seems to work. It also seemed that after you darken from a couple days in the sun they didn’t ask you as often. Probably went on to fresh meat, fair skin beware. The souvenir people on the beach came around everyday and again a pleasant "no thank you" or "maybe tomorrow" and they were on their way.
Staff in General: When you look at an operation like this one, I think you can tell a lot about how it works by watching the leadership. On Tuesday evening they have a "Managers Cocktail Party" and I would highly recommend attending. The General Manager of the resort, Oscar Lora, is a very impressive man, who during his address to us said that he was proud and honoured to have the team of employees he had at Blue Bay and I believe he was very sincere in that statement. His front-line management team was made up of what I thought was a great mix of experienced (older) and younger managers who represented both off island and Dominican Republic citizens. I commend him for giving locals the opportunity for advancement. I suspect one of the benefits of smaller resorts is that if the management team cares to, they can get to know the names and stories of all of their employee’s, my perception is that this management team operates this way. We found all of the staff that we met to be above average in their approach to us and the general happiness they presented to their guests. Everything we requested was done and always with a smile and pleasant attitude. We were welcomed "home" a number of times during our stay, which I thought was a nice approach. I believe that this team provided the best customer service we have received at any all inclusive resort we have been to and is only so slightly behind the service we experienced on Cruise Ships.
Summary: I would definitely recommend this resort to friends looking for a nice small resort experience. Based on the service, beach and snorkeling alone, I would consider it again for my own holiday plans.